I come from Sundsvall. It's just half-way north along the eastern cost of Sweden. Officially it belongs to Northern Sweden (Norrland) and many Swedes from Southern Sweden consider it very northern. Not so the people of the "real" Norrland. They see it as some kind of suburb of Stockholm (400 kms away, but who cares...) So I decided to take the train up north to my friend Marie in Ångermanland, and as the train left I realised this is the first time in my life I travel north of Sundsvall all by myself and by free will. And for sure I did not regret it!
Marie is a VERY gifted musician, singer and songwriter and we had a very enriching jam session last night playing, singing and recording our own songs! How lovely! This is true vacation for me! Ångermanland is a very pious place with a lot of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches with a GREAT and deeply rooted musical tradition which produces great musicians (classical, gospel, pop...) of which Marie is one! Last Sunday evening we enjoyed a classical concert at the Lutheran church of Själevad where Marie serves as a church musician. Yesterday we spent the whole day with her sister, brother-in-law and very cute nephew! I enjoyed very non-Belgian activities as blue-berry picking and swimming in a lake. WONDERFUL! And the slow tempo of the Norrlanders was also very restful. The cat of Marie also gave me a very warm reception keeping me company in bed and also granting me a very catty farewell gift: a dead mouse on the floor of my room this morning (no pictures of that one for reasons of decency - but I must say it was rather neat and with no blood on it. I even hesitated first to think that it was some kind of very realistic cat-toy but no... it was the real thing...) Coming back to Alnö I continued enjoying music at a house concert of the music teacher Peter Tjärnberg! Below some photo's from the concert and also from Alnö in general.
Lately I have been recording some. This afternoon it was for a friend who is making a CD of his own songs in a studio. It was inspiring, because I want to do the same thing. And as a matter of fact I AM also taking steps in that direction. Last Wednesday I went to the home studio of a friend and we worked there for some hours. I played and sang quite au naturel, and what I mean is that I just sang and played just the way I do here at home, and neither separated the tracks nor worked with metronome, because that flakes me out! The best song was The Desert, which I wrote 5 years ago and have been playing and singing quite regularly since. The message to me is: practice. Which means: take the time to dream and have fun more. Fortunately the time has come for this, because it's Summer holiday! It's something gradual though, because I'm actually working on my teaching material a lot these days and believe it or not I really enjoy it! Vacation for me is seldom being totally "out of it" but doing everything I normally do (working, playing, singing, taking showers, cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes, cooking etc.) in a somewhat calmer tempo and with some more flexibility and some less pressure.
My new musical discovery: Lisa LeBlanc - a Canadian francophone singer with a FANTASTIC voice and attitude and Chiaque ACCENT! I especially like her songs Y fait chaud, Câlisse-moi là and Juste parce que j'peux. I found her on France Culture so on Saturday evening if you're too bored by the Eurovision Song contest pls click on the photo and listen to this radio program. Lisa LeBlanc - vingt points!!!!!!
This gentleman payed my school a visit last week to give a workshop about songwriting! Rana and I were both there and were both, I think, touched by the somewhat rough gentleness of this Welsh singer-songwriter. I had heard of him for the first time less than a year ago from a very fervent Christian friend of mine, and I think I had somewhat wrong expectations about him being a Christian artist. But at the same time this was not a disappointment to me. I've been very much preached to in my life and that has made me discover that neither do I like being approached nor would I like to approach others in that way. Also he would never have been invited to my school if he had been a typical Christian type of singer.
I was so surprised some months ago when I accidently found out a colleague of mine organised concerts with Martyn Joseph close to Leuven and that one of them was taking place in May this year! Plus a song-writing workshop. Wow, I thought, and managed to change a class to be able to attend.
What especially touched me was his honesty and vulnerability, mentioning briefly his experiences of bullying and being in psychotherapy (both of which I can refer to very closely) and at the same time showing very much of personal integrity. He spoke of his work as a singer-songwriter in a way that made me think of one of my professors of Greek literature at the KULeuven who repeatedly stated that a poem is not "nice" or "beautiful" but good or not good, like an artefact which either does the job or doesn't. No focus on the person but on the work. A poem doesn't only have one meaning or "moral" but if it's good the listener co-creates it and gives it meaning. That way of thinking is so rich! And not only is it rich but I think also godly. God is not a God who is anxious to be overly clear. He doesn't force, neither through words or deeds, but even hides Himself (Isaiah 43,15). A fact upheld by the two Jansenist heroes of mine, Pascal and Racine. Also it was the gospel hidden in the allegory of the Chronicles of Narina of C.S. Lewis that first, although in an indirect way, managed to open me up to Christianity.
So thank you Martyn Joseph for your visit! You have surely left some tracks. And if you'll ever read these lines, may it be clear that I think Bruce Springsteen should look up to you more than you do to him, that you are fantastic live performer and song-writer but that I hope your next album will be more like "Evolved" than like your last one, "Songs for the Coming Home", which is also very good, but misses that acoustic, plain, raw sound that I liked so much with "Evolved". Also I prefer to be punched in the stomach by the quite shocking lyrics of a song like "Working Mother" to listening to "Clara" which, although it is a touching song based on a fantastic story, I find it too packed with words. But of course myself I'm only a frog jumping up the steps of the Parnass inch by inch : )